As I sat in one windowless room after another, I held my retreat sisters and our experiences in my heart while I listened to one presentation after another explaining how to create more sustainable practices by sparking social impact, engaging employees, assessing economic impact, enhancing leadership skills, implementing better technology, issuing more thorough reports, and shifting to more renewable energy sources. Throughout the weekend I came back to one question: Where was the natural world in this conversation?
Last fall my backyard was undergoing a plague of moles—or perhaps it was simply one very industrious mole. Molehills littered the yard and the brazen inhabitant of the one closest to the house would commence renovations literally at my feet as I sat reading.
Lots of research resulted in my realizing that there was no humane way to discourage or kill a mole, so I resorted to what I knew best—ceremony, prayer, and animal communication with other species besides moles (I had already tried to convince Mister Mole to move elsewhere, alas without result).
I asked for the neighborhood cats to step up their game. I pleaded with the local coyotes to come and hunt their fill. I called upon owl and anyone else who could assist me with this affliction before my landlady resorted to drastic measures.
And it was not just my yard that was suffering. Throughout my neighborhood molehills were under construction everywhere I looked. It appeared that we had become a development of mole strip malls.
Concurrently, my cellar was experiencing an invasion of rats. Despite traps, ceremony, animal communication and every reasonable non-lethal remedy known to man, the rats—clever beings that they are—were winning.
I finally sent Reiki to the situation and pleaded for a solution—any solution. The beauty of Reiki is that you don’t need to know what the solution should be—indeed you should let go of attachment to the outcome, which is what I did. Much as I love rats and moles, our ecosystem was out of balance, and we needed help.
Help arrived, unexpectedly, in the form of a starving stray cat many of you now know as Manitou. According to my cat Shaman (now in Spirit) Manitou was sent to assist me with my own personal growth.However I soon became aware that Manitou was also a claw-packing, rodent-terrorizing feline Sheriff. Practically from the very moment that I began feeding him Manitou demonstrated his gratitude by bringing me dead moles. I usually knew when I was about to receive another “present” because he would announce himself with a continuous litany of celebratory, but somewhat muffled meows. When he saw me he would run to drop the dead mole at my feet, which of course earned him lots of praise for his hunting skills. And then I would have to build the spirit of the deceased mole a Bridge of Light while disposing of the physical remains.
Soon I had no more mole problems in the yard. Over time, the construction of mole strip malls in the neighborhood ceased. Having run out of varmints close to home Manitou appeared to have expanded his territory for several blocks—he had the Molehill Gang on the run. With a new (and deadly) Sheriff on patrol the rats in the cellar left town, too.
Then one day, for no reason that I could discern other than that the formerly very skinny cat with dull fur was now a very well-fed cat with a gleaming coat—Manitou brought a young LIVE, unharmed rat into my bedroom, dropped it, and waited expectantly for praise. As I stared at Manitou with my jaw dropped, the young rat took the opportunity to make itself scarce, and without further ado vanished into my collection of shoes. Manitou looked at me and said, “What game shall we play now?”
Muttering under my breath at Manitou, I proceeded to have a conversation with the small, frightened rat. After some time, I managed to coax the little one into a jar, and released him outside. I then gave Manitou a stern lecture on not bringing home live prey and hoped that would be the end of it.
Over the next few weeks I learned to check the bedroom carpet for deceased tokens of his affection, until the day that I forgot and stumbled over HALF a mole corpse (I don’t want to know where the other half ended up—I can tell you it was not in my bedroom since I searched it thoroughly).
That same evening, tired after a day of teaching, I was relaxing on the sofa. Normally Manitou joins me for some quality snuggle time, but this night he seemed restless. He would join me for a few minutes and then disappear for a half hour or more. I assumed that he was spending some time in the back room (which I jokingly refer to as his Cat Cave), but as time went by I noticed that he had this almost furtive air when he appeared to check on me. If I had not been so tired I might have investigated to see what was up, but I didn’t.
At 9:30 I heard Manitou meowing like he does when he has a tribute to offer me. Bemused I wondered how this could be since he was in for the night, or so I thought. (Later I realized that the discovery of half a mole had distracted me from closing the window—an oversight that Manitou was now exploiting.)
This time his meow sounded more muffled than usual. Before I could rally and rise from the couch Manitou walked into the living room with his latest trophy. Dangling from his mouth was a very large, limp adult rat. My eyes practically bugged out of my head. Manitou is not a large cat—catching an adult rat was a major achievement.
Please understand that I love rats. I had several as pets over the years, loved them dearly and respected them as intelligent beings. So I had mixed feelings about this “present” but was prepared to praise Manitou for his amazing skill as he proudly paraded into his Cat Cave with tail held high and swagger in place. As I began to tell him what a great and wonderful warrior he was, Manitou dropped the rat on the floor at my feet, which is when I discovered that the rat was very much alive as evidenced by the speed with which he vanished under the bureau.
It was late, and I was tired, which is my only excuse for the passing thought that perhaps I should simply close the door on the room and leave Manitou and the rat to sort things out. After a moment of serious reflection I realized that tactic simply would not work—there was a 2-inch gap under the door that even a corpulent rat could pass through, and Manitou was showing no sign of being interested in finishing said rat off. Indeed, he looked at me and said, “What shall we do now?” And I responded with some intensity, “There is no WE.”
I cudgeled my tired brain for ideas. This rat was too big and too savvy to be enticed into a glass jar like the little one before. I did not have a trap big enough and something told me this rat would not take the bait anyway. By now the rat had moved around a bit under the bureau and his tail was sticking out. For one second I thought about grabbing him Turtle Man-style (live action!), but decided that I would probably hurt the rat trying to drag him out from under. (Later I realized just how tired and rattled I was—I never once thought of sending Reiki to the rat or the situation.)
By now Manitou could hear the wheels turning in my mind and he wanted to help. He kept saying “we” and the image I received was of both of us having a fine game of rat hunting. I kept telling him there was no “we”—that I was most emphatically NOT joining in any cat/rat games.
In despair I reflected on the rat companions who had shared my life. What had I learned from them that could help? I knew the rat was scared, and I needed to overcome that and gain his cooperation, but how? Sometimes tired is good because then you come up with goofy ideas that just might work.
My brain said, “Rats like small, dark places, they help them feel safe. What do you have that would work?” And suddenly I realized that I had some poster mailing tubes right in the room with me! I grabbed one that was large enough to give the rat a feeling of safety without being too small to turn around in, and placed it with the opening up against the side of the bureau—all while being avidly watched by Manitou. I began to wonder if he had set me this test just to see what I would do.
Now that the tube was in place I had to persuade the rat to go in it.
I began by talking to him and mentally showing him images of what I wanted him to do. I told him that he had been carried into a place where three cats lived, and that one of them was a half bobcat (thankfully Cougar was sleeping peacefully, blissfully unaware of what was taking place a room away) that he did not want to meet. I promised the rat if he went into the tube I would take him outside and release him so that he could have a second chance at life. Then I swept a stick under the bureau to encourage him to head toward the tube, which he did, and with a thump he went right in.
I lifted the tube and took a peek. Looking right back at me was a very scared rat face which reminded me so much of my former rat companions that I felt sorry for him. I promised him once again that he was safe, and popped the top on, effectively sealing him in the mailing tube. Manitou once again said, “What are we going to do now!?” And once again I said, a lot more forcefully, “There is NO WE! I am going outside to give him another chance, and you are going to stay here.”
By now it was 10:00 p.m. With the mailing tube containing the rat held securely in one hand I tried to stroll nonchalantly down my well-lit street, praying that none of my neighbors would look out their windows and wonder what I was doing.
The rat was quiet and so was I—but the dog on the corner started barking his fool head off. I mentally sent reassurance to the dog in hopes of calming him down, but he was having none of it—indeed it may have created the opposite effect as I thought I detected an increase in the bark’s pitch and determination. I figured I had better hurry up and let the rat out somewhere safe before one of my neighbors decided to find out what was causing the dog to bark so much.
When I reached the end of the street and the beginning of the trees and bushes that were part of the green belt that I intended to release the rat into, I stopped and uncapped the tube.
Reassuring the rat that I was letting him go in a lovely green place where he would have another chance I tilted the now open end of the tube down toward the undergrowth and waited expectantly. No rat emerged. Apparently he had decided that the tube represented safety.
Despite the fact that we were now several houses away from his, the dog continued to bark incessantly. My anxiety crept up a notch as I felt the seconds ticking by. I had no idea what my neighbors might do or think if they discovered me trying to turn a rat out into the green belt.
I decided I had to be firmer. I gave the upended and still capped end of the tube a tap in hopes of encouraging the rat to exit. No result. I finally had to resort to treating the mailing tube like a recalcitrant bottle of ketchup. After I delivered what I felt to be several overly loud smacks to the end of the tube, the rat shot out, and what happened next seemed to occur in slow motion.
While the rat was briefly airborne, I felt his fear of what appeared to him to be an alien environment. As soon as his paws touched the ground the rat executed a 180-degree spin turn any dancer would have been proud of, and began to run away from what he perceived to be a dangerous wilderness. That meant that he was now headed straight for me.
I had a split second to consider how I would react if he felt that I was safer than the woods and decided to take refuge on me. I am not afraid of rats, but I did not know this one well. Considering all he had been through I was not sure now was the time to better make his acquaintance. As one we made the decision to defer that for another time. The rat made another quick turn, and started bounding away as fast as he could. I felt him consider his options and then—to my horror—he spied what he considered civilization—the deck attached to the back of one of my neighbor’s houses. And with what I would swear was a sigh of relief, he disappeared under it, leaving me standing there holding the empty mailing tube.
The dadgum dog was still barking. Feeling like a burglar, and trying to keep to the shadows, I slunk back to my house.
I was now very wide awake.
I firmly resolved that starting the following day Sheriff Manitou would no longer be able to just stroll on through the swinging doors of the Wild Rose Saloon any time he pleased—he would now have to pass inspection. His battles, and his trophies, would have to remain outside.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.